As a child, Major Lee Franklin traveled across the country in a covered wagon with his family, destined for Texas. As they stopped along the route, the fiddles would come out and the evenings after a long day’s journey would be spent by the fire dancing and singing. Major would listen intently to the fiddle and watch carefully, even at the young age of 8. It was like he was memorizing the notes in the movement of the bow. He received his first fiddle from his father, a small metal fiddle at the age of four, and he would practice on that with the others but when his father was not around, he would play his father’s fiddle.
As Major grew, he practiced more and more, developing his art to his own unique style of playing with perfection. It was obvious to anyone who ever heard him play tunes such as Apple Blossom or Fischer’s Hornpipe where he made sure that every note was distinct and clear and that the tune was executed perfectly in every way. Major played in numerous fiddle competitions throughout his life and when it was discovered that he would be there it would raise the level of focus and concentration of the other fiddlers.
He was not a stunt or cross-tuning fiddler and preferred to play a song in “the right way” and practiced to a fault, much to the dismay of those who accompanied him who would often try to mix it up in a jam session and he would resist. While he did enjoy recording, he was rather particular about people randomly recording him while he jammed with his friends as a measure of maintaining the privacy of the conversations that they enjoyed having while jamming.
Born in 1904 in Arkansas, he grew up in Texas and married Inez Davis, going on have four children, raising only three. He died at the age of 77 and Inez died only months later. Major worked hard throughout his life to make a living for his family doing whatever was necessary to provide for them. He picked cotton, was a farmer and a carpenter as well. He worked for an oil company and the railroad and even at Kraft Foods. Throughout it all, his love of music was always there. He played in several bands, with family and friends, and when he was working at Kraft played with his son Royce in a band called the “Kraft Swingers”.
He did make some recordings in 1966 on the Texas Fiddle Favourites along with many others. And of course, he competed all over the state and elsewhere. He fiddled in many contests against all the greats – Oscar Harper, Eck Robertson, Irvin Solomon, Luis Franklin, Dick Barrett and Benny Thomasson and more. Major Lee Franklin was the 1949 World’s Champion of Fiddling. While he competed with all of these fiddlers in contests, in the next minute they would all be playing together, laughing and jamming and just enjoying their shared love of the fiddle.